Healthy eating is easier than you might think when you follow the healthy eating pyramid.
The healthiest food is at the bottom of the pyramid and those foods we should be avoiding are at the top.
So by choosing most of your food from the bottom of the pyramid and less food from the top will help you achieve a healthy diet.
Each major food group is represented and selecting food from each of these food groups ensures you get a balanced diet. The difference is in the quantities.
Food is placed in the pyramid according to its nutritional value and how much we should be eating. For instance, food at the top or pointy end of the pyramid should be eaten in the smallest quantities because it contains a lot of calories but very few vitamins and minerals. Whereas the food at the bottom is the healthiest and can be eaten in large quantities.
Cakes, cookies, chocolate, soft drinks, ice cream, cream, mayonnaise, chips and beer
Poultry, fish, meat, nuts and seeds, eggs, dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt
Vegetables, legumes, cereals, breads, fruits, rice, pasta
At the top of the pyramid are those foods we should be eating less of or restricting our consumption - foods full of sugar, fats, alcohol and salt.
Some recipes require the use of some of these ingredients. In these instances we can either use the low-fat version (such as mayonnaise or sour cream) or substitute for another ingredient.
We don’t need to entirely eliminate this food group – simply eat it sparingly.
The middle includes protein-rich foods, so are a necessary part of our diet. But we don’t need to eat large quantities for good health. These foods are placed in the middle because they should be eaten in moderation.
Even though meat sits in the middle of the pyramid, red meat should be limited to no more than twice a week. Switching to fish, chicken, nuts or beans instead can improve cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
At the bottom are foods that we should be eating most of the time because of their health benefits. These are the foods that reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and weight gain.
They have a high nutritional value, are important sources of energy and contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and, in some cases, antioxidants.
Foods such as legumes, fruit and vegetables contain relatively few calories so can be eaten in large quantities without weight gain.
Although the pyramid lists breads, rice and pasta as being healthy to eat, it should be remembered that not all bread is created equal. White bread and white rice contain refined grains and eating too much of these can make it harder to control weight.
We should be looking at eating more whole grains in the form of oatmeal, whole wheat bread and brown rice.
Following the healthy eating pyramid makes it easy to stay on track when trying to follow a healthy diet.
If you eat healthily most of the time by eating mainly from the bottom food group you can allow yourself an occasional treat from the top group without it doing any harm.
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